The Rural We: Lisa Vollmer
Fine art photographer Lisa Vollmer’s work has taken her around the world, from India and Cambodia to Costa Rica and Colombia. Born in Berlin, Germany, Vollmer now resides in Great Barrington, Mass. where she runs the Lisa Vollmer Studio + Gallery with her mother, the photographer Sabine Vollmer von Falken. The gallery, housed in a small contemporary barn in White House Square (325 Stockbridge Road/Rt.7) celebrated its one-year anniversary on April 30. The current exhibit features the work of mother and daughter, as well as photographs by nationally recognized artist Tom Zetterstrom and mixed media art by jeweler Carolina Palermo Schulze. Gallery hours are Thursday through Monday from Noon to 6 p.m. and by appointment.
I’m originally from Germany; I was born in Berlin and my family immigrated to U.S. in the late ‘70s. I attended Great Barrington’s Rudolf Steiner School, and then went to The Art Institute of Chicago for a fine art degree in photography. That’s when I began my self-portrait series, which I’m still working on.
For the current show, I’m exhibiting some of those images, from 1998 until now, including a few from my trip to Cuba in 2012. The color treatment is a reference to 1960’s color film; I’m trying to give the feeling of what it was like to be in Cuba at that time. I tried to print the images in the way that I experienced them. The outfit I’m wearing in the photos is an original German dress from 1960; I’ve taken the dress and photographed myself in various countries. The dress is from the same time period that Cuba is still in, a kind of a time capsule. During the Cold War, there were Eastern Germans who were able to travel to Cuba, and they’re still living there. Historically, everything came together for me.
Lisa Vollmer, A Self-Portrait in Old Havana Cuba, 2012
After college, I decided to move to New York City and work for a photo lab, printing for artists such as Irving Penn, Cindy Sherman and Louise Lawler — artists I admired. Then I moved back to Berlin and decided to go into a masters program, studying art in context and learning about curation and art education. I moved back to the Berkshires and spent almost a decade as an assignment photographer and consultant, managing inventory and archives.
I’d worked for my mother as a teen and during summers in college, and always dreamed of us having a gallery together. I like being able to talk about our work and be in a public dialogue with the local community. Rather than finding gallery representation, we represent ourselves; we’re artists and owners so that we can interact with the public.
The majority of the work in the gallery is mine and my mother’s, but right now we also have large vintage silver gelatin prints by Tom Zetterstrom and the mixed media work of jeweler Carolina Palermo Schulze.
I chose to come back to this area because I’ve seen quite a number of places in the world and I really think this is one of the most beautiful places to live. You’re connected to people from around the world, and there are so many artists and other interesting people living here. For me, it’s where I’m able to have this gallery and do what I’ve always dreamed of doing. It would be much more difficult for me to do this in the city. The gallery will take time to establish, but I feel very positive about it. There have been many people coming in — art collectors, artists and those interested in talking about art — and I get to know these people. It’s an incredible education for me to be in the public this way and doing what I’ve always wanted to do.